David Denies’ Pica Zuro has emerged as a sporting property of note within the Cordoba region, with careful attention to detail and shooting excellence their hallmark. The lodge is a beautifully restored 19th-century estancia boasting nine bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, a swimming pool, and a professional masseuse for shot-weary shoulders. The lodge is located north of Cordoba among thousands of acres of cereal grain fields intermingled with glades and rolling wooded hills that play host to tens of millions of eared doves - without question a shooting Mecca.
From the expertise of the field guides to the remarkably orchestrated shoots we are certain that your experience will be exceptional. Operated by David Denies & Associates, their Córdoba dove shoot was the original shoot in Argentina, and it continues to thrill visiting hunters from all over North America and Europe.
The typical shooting day in Córdoba begins with breakfast at 8:00am, followed by a short drive to the pre-scouted areas. On your first day of arrival, you will be introduced to your field assistant and he will have prepared your first stand. It will be kitted out with good cover, a seat, plenty of cartridges, lots of cold drinks and any other detail you require. Then non-stop shooting until lunch. If you do not like or get bored of where you are shooting or how the birds are flying, just tell your field assistant or the guide and they will move you to somewhere more suitable. It is possible to move whenever you like or go and join freinds. Shooting in Cordoba is a very relaxed affair. Córdoba is fantastic for all skill levels — set your sights on the more challenging high flying or even 'grouse-like' birds or go for sheer numbers and shoot at the waves and waves of doves just above the tree line. At times you’ll notice pigeons too, they are fair game as well.
Lunch is yet another reason why our clients love David Denies and Pica Zuro Lodge — weather permitting, you will enjoy a wonderful meal in the field. The traditional asado-style lunch features an open-air barbecue of famous Argentine beef, dove, pork and sausages, complete with fantastic wines and fresh crisp salads. If you would like, enjoy a relaxing siesta on a mattress or in a hammock before returning to the fast and challenging shooting. The afternoon session will last until approximately 6:00pm when you will return to Pica Zuro Lodge to relax by the pool with a cocktail, or take a massage or a nap before savoring a delicious dinner.
The estimated population of Eared doves (there are Inca doves as well which are smaller still) in the region is about 40 million but nobody really knows. The population fluctuates with the amount of food available, which in turn impacts the number of times the doves breed. What they do know is that generally they breed five times a year and have two eggs each time with an 80% success rate of seeing their young through to adulthood. They feed on three main crops, maize or corn, sorghum and winter wheat when the moisture of the soil allows this crop to be produced. If there is no winter wheat they will go on the shoots of the soybean plants when just planted and coming through. This is the worst damage for farmers because it damages a whole new plant not just a few grains taken.
As a guide, the doves are shot in the hill ground or what is known as ‘roosts’ or ‘temporary roosts’ between late June and late February but at some point in the second half of February and mid-March (depending on weather and crop conditions) they start to leave the roosts and head for the fields in earnest where they remain until late June. This is when the harvesting has been done and there is a lot of food available which often tempts the birds to breed again. We shoot them travelling from temporary roosts to feeding areas or water, sometimes in the temporary roost, sometimes just leaving and other times closer to the fields to which they are travelling. It is rare to shoot them actually arriving/landing in the fields to which they are coming to feed because close to the feeding area the birds fly lower and slower. This is more common for pigeon shooting in other areas of Argentina, which is similar to how we often shoot our pigeons.
Before the shooting of doves began in the 1970s, the farmers set poison, which was effective but indiscriminate, killing all types of other birds and mammals. Nowadays, farmers/landowners gain income from the shooting rights for people to shoot on their land and there is decent protection for their crops though neither shooting nor poisoning fully stops crop damage with the population as it is. We cannot tell you that every last dove shot is picked because that is not true: the terrain is often difficult and the brush can be very thick with thorny bushes, and this is why dogs are not used but the field assistants (FAs) do collect what they can find by sight and the doves are donated to local causes. In the case of David Denies, all the birds are cleaned and taken to the Sister Theresa Foundation where over 500 hundred children are fed once a day at 6pm in five different dining rooms. We enjoyed dove breasts rolled in bacon at lunch and ‘dove burgers’ were on the menu card at dinner as well. They are very good if cooked right, crispy on the outside and still pink and tender on the inside.
Pica Zuro Lodge is a nice set up with full facilities. All the guests are usually delighted with their rooms which, because Pica Zuro is an old estate house were much larger than in a lodge purpose-built for shooting or fishing guests. The rooms are spacious and the bathrooms even more so, each with old classic shutters over the windows and wonderful huge baths and showers. We liked the contrast between the white and cream linens and curtains etc and the dark wooden floors and old furniture. The sitting room is the central area, which is basically a very large hall. Off it is the bar and dining room with nine bedrooms located around the lodge and in an outside annexe. There are huge verandas with comfortable furniture where guests gathered with a beer from the ‘help yourself’ bar. For those inclined there is a huge swimming pool and a pool table, and of course internet throughout the lodge. Guests slowly gather at the bar after their massages for Hor's d’oeuvres or canapes and then enjoy another great dinner before bed. Dinner is by menu choice again between a classic meat option and something a little more healthy. The meat options are difficult to refuse! Breakfast is everything from eggs cooked to order to great fresh fruit, yoghurts, cereal, croissants etc.
Because Córdoba, Argentina offers a true year-round dove hunting season, a two- or three-day extension can be easily added to other shooting in Bolivia, Paraguay or Uruguay and with dorado fishing at Pira Lodge in the Ibera marsh, or even with trout fishing in Patagonia and Chile’s lake region.